There are over 1,200 Steiner Waldorf schools and close to 2000 Kindergartens in 75 countries, making it the largest alternative education movement in the world. As well as this, there are also 500 ‘special education centres’ in 40 countries who teach the Steiner way. 11 Steiner Waldorf schools currently operate in New Zealand, the first opened in Hastings in 1950.


Rudolf Steiner believed combining standard educational practices with spiritual development, led to more rounded students with a developed awareness that would benefit all society. The cultivation of pupils’ imagination and creativity in ways that serve their developmental needs is a strong focus in Steiner lessons. Individual teachers and schools have a great deal of autonomy in determining curriculum content, teaching methodology, and governance – a vast difference to the mechanical, teach-by-rote used in standard western child education.

The well-being of a community of people working together will be the greater, the less the individual claims for himself the proceeds of his work, i.e. the more of these proceeds he makes over to his fellow-workers, the more his own needs are satisfied, not out of his own work but out of the work done by others.” Steiner, ‘The Fundamental Social Law’


Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner started his career as a private tutor and a lecturer on history for a Berlin educational initiative for working class adults. At this time, he began to give public lectures on his views on education. In 1907 he published an essay called The Education of the Child in which he described the major phases of child development which formed the foundation of his approach to education. His classes included lessons on reincarnation, karma and communicating with spirit beings. He also taught that children (all of us in fact) are spiritual beings.

In 1919, Rudolf was invited to lecture to workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart. These lectures resulted in the establishment of the first Waldorf School which opened that year to teach children of the workers at the factory. The school also admitted children from all classes from outside the factory. It thus became the first comprehensive school in Germany serving children of all genders, abilities, and social classes.

In 1922, Rudolf presented his revolutionary teaching ideas to a conference in Oxford and two years later, to a teacher training conference in Torquay which led to the founding of the first Waldorf school in Britain in 1925. The Rudolf Steiner School in New York City opened in 1928. By the 1930s, numerous schools inspired by Steiner’s principles had opened in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Hungary, the United States, and England. Germany, the USA and Netherlands have the highest number of Steiner schools. More recently, a number of schools have opened in Asia, especially in China. However, the Chinese communist government is making it difficult for these schools to remain open as they don’t like the idea of students thinking for themselves. A number of public schools, charter schools and academies in various countries also teach with the Steiner methods.


When I was running film courses in Auckland, I had two young men on one of the courses who I remember for their exceptional imagination. They were also open, friendly and approached life with an ease that made them stand out from the other students. As one of their exercises, they made a short film that was so creative in its concept, that I submitted it to the International Fantasy Film Festival in Belgium. It was accepted and was highly praised by the festival judges for the simplicity of the story and its outstanding creativity. It proved to me that the Steiner (spiritual) teaching methods allowed them to explore aspects hidden to the majority who don’t understand the true reason for a physical existence.


A Future Vaccine to Prevent Knowledge of Soul and Spirit: from “The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness” (Rudolf Steiner Press, page. 85. October 7, 1917) Steiner wrote: “I have told you that the spirits of darkness are going to inspire their human hosts, in whom they will be dwelling, to find a vaccine that will drive all inclination toward spirituality out of people’s souls when they are still very young, and this will happen in a roundabout way through the living body. Today, bodies are vaccinated against one thing and another; in future, children will be vaccinated with a substance which it will certainly be possible to produce so that they do not develop foolish inclinations connected with spiritual life – ‘foolish’ here, or course, in the eyes of materialists. A way will finally be found to vaccinate bodies so that these bodies will not allow the inclination toward spiritual ideas to develop and all their lives people will believe only in the physical world they perceive with the senses. They will be vaccinated against any inclination toward spirituality. This is merely to give you a particularly striking example of many things which will come in the near and more distant future.”

With the current world-wide frenzy to vaccinate entire populations, Steiner’s prediction sends chills down my spine. Is this current vaccine, still in its testing stage, the one Rudolf Steiner alluded to back in 1917?  – Time will tell.

Ceidrik Heward

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